If there’s one thing Eagles fans can agree on, it’s that the linebacking corps stinks, and has stunk since the Super Bowl win. It’s probably the only football topic in this region that has everybody in lock step. You will not find a single person who thinks the Eagles have done a good job addressing the linebacker position over the past 3.5 seasons.
So let’s do an exercise, just to demonstrate how pitiful the front office has been. We’re going to rank every linebacker who has played for the Birds since Nick Foles hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
This includes the 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons. But we’re only going to count guys if they actually logged a defensive snap, so special teamers like B.J. Bello and D.J. Alexander aren’t included in the list. L.J. Fort, too. Believe it or not, he only played special teams here and never got on the field for a defensive snap. Then he went to Baltimore and started 16 games over the next two seasons.
Without further ado, here’s how we’d rank the Birds’ linebackers from 2018-2021, from best to worst:
- Nigel Bradham
- Jordan Hicks
- Alex Singleton
- Nate Gerry
- T.J. Edwards
- Kamu Grugier-Hill
- Eric Wilson
- Duke Riley
- Zach Brown
- Genard Avery
- Shaun Bradley
- Patrick Johnson
- Davion Taylor
- Rashad Smith
- LaRoy Reynolds
No lie; this was an incredibly difficult exercise. I forgot that Brown, Smith, and Reynolds even played for the Birds. They had a cup of coffee and then moved on. Brown, particularly, was an absolute dud. Remember when he said some dumb shit about Kirk Cousins, the Birds got lit up, and then he was released? Good times!
Obviously near the bottom there you’ve got some young guys who we hope can turn a corner. We need Davion Taylor to get healthy and get himself going on the field, and Patrick Johnson is a rookie with upside. Genard Avery might be similarly in this category, but who knows? He’s got 14 tackles in four games and hopefully he can continue to build on that with a different defensive coordinator in the fold.
What’s most concerning is that Singleton and Gerry ended up in the top four. Singleton was a tackling machine last year, and plays with a lot of heart, but I think people are seeing this year what his limitations are. And Nate Gerry may have been one of the most maligned Eagles of the past 10 years, which says a lot. Somehow I ended up putting him in the top four of my list, which feels criminal.
But the takeaway here is that the Eagles really have not had stud, cornerstone linebackers since Bradham and Hicks departed. That 2017 Super Bowl team won it all with Bradham playing 89% of the snaps. Mychal Kendricks was second with 60% of the snaps and when Hicks went down injured, they got by with a committee of Joe Walker, Najee Goode, and Dannell Ellerbe. Jim Schwartz played a ton of nickel that season, so the Eagles oftentimes did not have three linebackers on the field at the same time.
It’s depressing, this list. We can argue about my rankings, and I honestly didn’t spend too much time on this, but it’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. If that’s the group you’re working with, the ship is going down regardless.